WoW Design Improvements: Introduction

This article is part 1 of 8 in the series WoW Design Improvements

Since I ranted about Blizzard’s not considering the needs of their customers earlier today, I feel I have to explain a few more reasons why I think that’s the case. I mentioned one reason, Blizzard’s pandering to the needs of a handful of extremely dedicated players over the mass of their customer base.

I have other reasons, which I consider to be design mistakes on Blizzard’s part. To explain them, I need to explain a number of features of World of Warcraft.

There are a lot of aspects to designing software, from the user interface to the internal structure of the code you produce. Programmers in the traditional sense don’t concern themselves with any of that, but the more inclusive “Software Engineer” job description usually includes the latter. Architecture is a buzz-word associated with many aspects of structuring the invisible side of designing software.

One of many things you should consider when creating software is how your users will use it, and derive from there what sort of functionality your software should provide in order to satisfy your user’s needs. The less detailed part of that is more in the realm of product development, and the more detailed it becomes, the more it moves towards software engineering.

Almost purely in the realm of product development, these high-level features are part of the WoW experience:

  • Players can chat with each other, in (public) channels or privately.
  • Players can send messages to each other, reaching other players even when the recipient is off-line.
  • Players can organize into guilds for company, or for organizing groups to tackle content that a single player cannot manage on their own.
  • Players can manage a list of friends, that is, other characters that they have met in-game.
  • Players can manage a list of players to ignore: messages sent by an ignored player get discarded.

More or less outside of the range of product development and more in the range of software engineering lies a different kind of feature:

  • Players can download Add-ons to the WoW client, that customize their user interface and expand on the UI’s functionality.

All of these features have one thing in common: I’m of the opinion that Blizzard made mistakes when designing them, some significant, and some not. In the following days I will post descriptions of these features, the mistakes I feel have been made, and possible improvements. At the end of this series, I’ll write about my conclusions drawn from these mistakes.